Grants fund projects that will increase the competitiveness of Minnesota grown specialty crops in domestic and foreign markets. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, floriculture, and processed products that have 50 percent or more specialty crop content. A comprehensive list of eligible specialty crops is available on the USDA's web site.

basket with colorful vegetables flying out
 

Applicant Eligibility

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) encourages the following groups to apply for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP):

  • non-profit organizations
  • producer organizations
  • government agencies
  • universities
  • other agricultural groups

For-profit entities, farms, and other businesses who want to develop sector-wide research and development projects are also eligible.

Project Eligibility

Projects must enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that are grown in Minnesota by:

  • Leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops;
  • Assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops;
  • Expanding availability and access to specialty crops; and
  • Addressing local and regional challenges confronting specialty crop producers.

specialty crop is defined by the USDA. This program cannot fund starting a business or expanding a farm. Each project must demonstrate external support from specialty crop stakeholders and produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or public beneficiaries. Projects that address problems or opportunities that cross state boundaries are eligible.

Visit the USDA's SCBGP Awarded Grants page to see previously funded projects in Minnesota and across the country.

Funding Priorities

Minnesota's SCBGP funding priorities for Federal Fiscal Year 2020 are:

Projects that address one or more of the following receive up to eight priority points:

  • Improve distribution systems of specialty crops, such as reducing costs, removing barriers, or creating new systems
  • Address barriers uniquely affecting communities of color and indigenous communities within the specialty crop production and distribution system
  • Provide technical assistance to growers and value-added producers focused on creating and sustaining profitable businesses
  • Increase child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops
  • Focus on pest or disease control
  • Develop new or improved seed or plant varieties or strengthening seed systems
  • Conduct research focusing on sustainability, conservation or environmental outcomes (including adaption to climate change)
  • Improve capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and other support for farmers, packers and processors to enhance food safety

Projects that benefit beginning farmers receive up to one priority point. A Beginning Farmer is an individual or entity that has not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years and substantially participates in the operation.

Projects that benefit socially disadvantaged farmers receive up to one priority point. A Socially Disadvantaged farmer is a farmer who is a member of a Socially Disadvantaged Group. A Socially Disadvantaged Group is a group whose members have been subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, and/or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. This includes communities of color and Native American Tribal Communities.

Funding priorities are determined prior to developing each year’s RFP. Send comments and suggestions for next year's RFP to program coordinator Ann Kuzj by December 15.

Amounts Available

The MDA sub-awards the bulk of our USDA block grant, about $1.3 million, through a competitive review process. We will award grants of $10,000 to $100,000 for projects that can span two-and-a-half years.

Applying

The application period is now open. All applications must be received by 4:00 p.m. CST on March 10, 2020.

Read the Request for Proposals for eligibility and requirements. If you need this information in an alternative format, please contact the program administrator.

We encourage you to read the Question and Answer (Q&A) page and view previous project descriptions on the Past Projects page.

FFY2020 MDA SCBG Program Timeline

RFP released

January 6, 2020

Applications due to the MDA

March 10, 2020

Grant Review Process

About six to eight weeks

MDA notifies conditionally approved applicants

May 2020

MDA submits state plan to USDA

May 2020

USDA approval (anticipated)

September 2020

MDA issues approval letters to successful applicants and initiates contracting

October 2020

Project work can start (anticipated)

November 1, 2020

Project end date

April 30, 2023

Latest project end date upon approved request September 29, 2023